Friday, August 20, 2010

I Was There When Levon Turned 70

If you look up the definition of gentleman in Webster's, you will see a picture of Levon Helm.

In May, my sister and I went to Levon's 70th Birthday Bash at his barn studio, which is attached to his home in beautiful Woodstock, NY.

CNN was there, too. Here's the video.

Oh, what a night!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meet the New Ride. Same as the Old Ride. Sort Of.

When I bought my 2007 Camry Hybrid in May 2006, there were fewer than 10 in Tucson. It was still on a slow boat from Japan when I signed the contract. I bought it because my beloved 2003 Hyundai Sonata, a gorgeous gold Korean Jaguar, got 17 MPG. I didn't want to be part of the reason that we were occupying Iraq.

The Camry turned out to be a big bummer. Minor irritations were compounded by disappointing mileage. The last straw was the Toyota recalls due to brake and acceleration problems. Toyota gambled their sterling 50 year reputation, weighed the cost of the recalls against the lives of their customers, and made the wrong decision. They covered up the dangerous manufacturing flaws until they were forced to come clean. The Toyota reputation and resale value, for which I had paid a premium price, are damaged goods.

I thought about buying my seventh Honda. My three Honda motorcycles and three cars were paragons of care-free reliability. But the allure of my favorite car ever, the 2003 Sonata, reminded me to check out the new Sonatas. Hyundai's bumper to bumper warranty--five years or 60,000 miles--is the best in the car industry. Sonata has the best fuel economy in its class. When I learned one of the Sonata colors is black plum pearl, I had to see this wonder.

One of the disappointments with the Camry hybrid was that during its first year of production, it was still being made in Japan. I am pleased that my Sonata was assembled in Alabama.

The new Sonata has gotten raves from Edmunds, J.D. Powers and others. It is quite pretty, and a little more daring than the homogeneous Honda/Toyota/Volvo/Ford models. By the time I accepted how much I have to pay for a new car, all the black plum pearl Sonatas in southern Arizona were sold. All dealerships are awaiting their new inventory, with no delivery date in sight.

I have spent the last week having very unpleasant interactions with car salesmen. With two exceptions, they didn't listen to me, they put their needs ahead of mine, and they didn't hesitate to show their frustration when I didn't immediately do what they wanted me to do. This is the opposite of how I treat my clients, and it was nasty to be treated this way.

I finally found a salesman at Hyundai of Tempe who does business my way. Ron Rinaldi remembered what I told him about my car criteria and he was interested in learning about me. He told me his sales philosophy and why he is proud of his dealership. We both believe the way to stay in business through the turbulent market cycles is to put the customer first, and earn their referrals and repeat business. If you are thinking of buying a car, I highly recommend you consider letting Ron find the Hyundai that's right for you.

Of course, he also sells used cars, and unlike many salesmen, will look for the car you want, even if it's not at his dealership and he might not make as much on the sale. Imagine that.

I expect most people won't even notice I have a new car. In the photo above, the Sonata is in front, and the Camry is behind it. They are almost the same color red, with the same rounded mid-size sedan styling. The Sonata looks a little racier and of course its red is richer and shinier than the Camry's.

Ron gave me a complete orientation to all the features of my Sonata. It really has almost everything the Camry had, but I never used the Bluetooth because no one explained it to me. Ron linked the car to my phone so a display on the dash shows who's calling me. Don't worry, your phone number is not stored in my car, just in my phone. Before I got to Tempe yesterday, Ron had just spent an hour and a half explaining the navigation system to another of his customers.

Hyundai of Tempe is just off I-10 at Elliott. An easy ride when it's not rush hour. Ron gave me a Hyundai Santa Fe to drive home from Tempe last night. As soon as my moon roof is installed, Ron will drive my Sonata to my door. I'm so impressed. His number is 602-799-7226.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Snakes Have to Eat, Too

One morning a couple months ago I heard a flapping commotion outside our den door. I looked out to the porch and saw a dove bravely beating a king snake with his wings.

It was morning, so the male dove was on duty on his nest while his wife rested. The snake was after the dove's chicks, and the snake won.

Now I don't want any of you carnivores shrieking "Eeew!"

A Better Way to Do Short Sales

A short sale occurs when the seller owes more on his mortgage than can be recovered by the sale of the house. Banks have made the short sale process so painful, that most buyers won't even make an offer on a house that is listed as a short sale. Buyers know they will wait several months before the seller's bank will look at their offer, and then the lender will refuse to make repairs and may counter at a higher sale price. At the last minute, the real estate agent's commissions can be reduced, and the agents have no recourse. So of course agents are not eager to get involved with these high risk/low reward transactions.

Since August 1, the U.S. Treasury has made Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) short sales available to borrowers whose loans are owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Borrowers with FHA and VA loans are still not eligible.

Here are the enlightened advantages of the HAFA short sale:
1) The seller has at least 120 days to market the house, during which time foreclosure is postponed.
2) The seller's lender sets a sale price that they will accept, preferably before the house is on the market.
3) If a buyer submits an offer that meets the the terms of the seller's lender, the lender must accept the offer within 10 business days.
4) Seller is released from all liability on all loans. No deficiency judgements, and no surprise repayment notes appear in the closing documents.
5) U.S. Treasury pays up to $6,000 to subordinate lien holders. This is a big deal, because typically the holder of the second mortgage is offered $3,000 by the first lien holder, and the second lien holder can refuse to accept this settlement, so the short sale can not occur.
6) Seller receives $3,000 cash from the U.S. Treasury at closing for moving expenses.

How can the U.S. Treasury get lenders to agree to streamline the short sale process? They give cooperating lenders $1,500. So the downside of all this is that the taxpayers are again on the hook for the mortgage industry meltdown.

I just took a class on the HAFA short sale process, and I would be glad to discuss this option with you if it seems like something that would be helpful to you.